by Emily W
When Jennifer opened her eyes she saw nothing but blue. As the fog in her mind cleared she realized she was looking up at the sky, at a completely cloudless sky. She slowly sat up and looked around. She was on a beach. The sand beneath her was hard and damp. The water came running up the sand and reached all the way to Jennifer’s knees before receding out again to the ocean. The water was a rich sapphire blue and looked inviting.
Two thoughts then simultaneously occurred to Jennifer. One was that she had no idea where she was or why she was here. The other was that she was naked. Looking down at herself she realized she did not even wear the string bikini she would wear during spring break. She quickly covered her intimate parts with her hands and scanned the beach in both directions. There did not seem to be anyone else around at the moment.
Even with her disorientation from not knowing how she had came to this place, her immediate concern was her nakedness. She scanned the ground around her in the hope she would find her clothes. There was nothing but sand. She glanced backwards a moment to see if they were behind her and what she saw made her pause. Slowly, with trembling legs she stood up and turned around. A feeling similar to falling hit her and for a moment she thought she would collapse to the ground.
Jennifer just wasn’t just on a beach. She was on an island, a very small island. It was perhaps only several hundred feet in diameter. It was all sand except in the middle where a small structure stood. The building looked like something out of the Middle East . It had walls as blue as the ocean with white writing on them. On top of the building was a small golden dome. There were a variety of bushes and some palm trees surrounding the building along with a small fountain from which a gentle stream of water came.
Although there was not anyone immediately around, Jennifer still covered her body out of fear of being seen naked. This concern for her modesty was mostly automatic as her mind was preoccupied with other matters. She tried desperately to remember how she came to be at this place. Had she fallen off a boat and been washed ashore? Her mind strained as she tried to recall if she had been on a boat. She remembered waking up on the beach but what came immediately before was a white void. She tried to think back to the last solid memory she had. She remembered finishing her last final for the semester at school. She remembered starting her summer job at a data entry service shortly afterwards. She could also recall going to the movies with her friends and could vividly remember the movie itself. The concreteness of this specific memory helped her to focus her find. The day after the movies she had gone grocery shopping and cleaned up her apartment. She watched television that night and had tomato shop and french bread for dinner. She remembered going to bed and after that there was nothing. A metaphorical sea of blackness resided in her memories and blotted out everything between then and now.
Jennifer shook with fear. Once, when she was four years old she had wandered away from her mother in the grocery store and became lost. Her mother quickly found her and did not seem to concerned. However, for a four year old the store was immense and as soon as she realized she could not find her mother she had felt totally alone and lost. A similar only much worse feeling had overtaken Jennifer now. If only to give her mind something to do other than worry she began to walk along the perimeter of the island. She kept looking out at the ocean to she if there was any other islands or land around or perhaps a boat.
The sea was as empty as it was endless.
Even though she was looking out at the water her thoughts kept turning to the small building in the center of the island. She was worried about what she might find in there. The idea that there was someone watching her at this very moment sent shivers done her spine. The possibility that she may have been kidnapped crossed her mind as well. Only after she had completely walked the length of the beach twice did she stop and look at the building.
Taking a deep breath she began to walk towards it. As she came closer more details came into view. A variety of fruits grew from the plants around the building. This was slightly reassuring as it meant she was not going to immediately starve to death. The fountain outside the building was circular and made from the same polished blue tile as the building itself. The water that came out a spigot in the center came up about five in the air before arching downward and falling into the pool of water the fountain held.
Reaching out a hand to touch the water, Jennifer found it soothingly cool. She turned her attention from the fountain to the building. On the blue tile that covered the outside were white squiggly lines. She remembered seeing a picture of writing from the Middle East once. This looked similar to that. Double doors were set into the wall and appeared to be the only way in the structure. Taking one last glance at the golden dome on top, Jennifer walked up to the doors. They were a dark brown color and betrayed no hint that they had been exposed to the elements.
Her hands shook so badly when she reached out to open the door that Jennifer almost had trouble taking a hold of it. Very slowly she pulled it open just enough to peek inside. Finding the room to be empty she opened the door more. The inside was even more elegant than the outside. The walls were covered in a complex, and Jennifer had to concede, a very beautiful pattern of geographical shapes. Above, the interior of the dome was hollow and light from outside poured in from it to illuminate the room. At the base of the dome was more squiggly writing.
Inside of the room there were not any furnishings. There was a small table across from the door with a strange stand shaped like an “X” with a book resting on it. Stepping inside, Jennifer could see more. There was a small niche carved out of the wall on her left with a rug in it. On her right there was a doorway but a lattice screen obscured it. With slow and hesitant footsteps she approached the screen and slowly pulled it aside. It revealed a small room with a bed and some black cloth folded up and placed in the middle. Turning away from the mini-bedroom she walked over to the table to look at the stand with the book on it. The book was green with gold writing in the same Middle Eastern script that adorned the walls. Opening the book she found it also consisted of more of the script. Finding the lines, dots and marks overwhelming she quickly closed the book. Turning around to face the doorway she contemplated her surroundings.
The building was, to say the least, sparse. It was beautiful of course and if it was not for the strange nature of how she had come to be here Jennifer would surely have been fascinated by it. She thought about the bed and wondered if someone lived here. Then a disturbing thought occurred to her. Was she meant to live here? Had someone kidnapped her and brought her to this place? If they had for what purpose would anyone do such a thing?
Jennifer spent an hour surveying her surroundings before returning to the bed with the black cloth folded on top of it. Upon examination she discovered that the black cloth was clothing and grateful for the chance to no longer have to walk around naked she unfolded the clothing. To her dismay it was an entirely black cloth that would be like wearing a blanket. When she hesitantly put it on she discovered that aside from her face and hands it covered her head to toe. She reluctantly resigned herself that if she did not want to walk around in the nude she would have to wear this. There were also some other articles of clothing on the bed. There are a pair of black stockings and sandals that she also puts on. There were also black gloves and a piece of material that takes Jennifer a few moments to realize is a face veil. It had a narrow line cut out for the eyes like she sometimes saw in pictures of Muslim women from the Middle East. She put the gloves and veil back onto the bed. The lack of choices might leave her wearing this ridiculous getup, but there was no reason to make it any more ridiculous by wearing gloves and a veil over her face.
When she walked back into the center room of the building she stopped to think about her situation. She had shelter and food as well as water. Since these more urgent needs were already taken care of she started to work out a way to escape from this island. She really did not have the means to make a raft and even if she did she had no idea where she was or what direction to go to reach the mainland. It might be possible that a boat or ship might pass by. If it did she would have to see it if she was going to be able to wave it down. Of course, the uncertainty about how she had come to be here began to intrude into those thoughts. What if she had been kidnapped and deposited on this island. She might find that the first boat that came within sight would be carrying the people who had abducted her.
While Jennifer thought about variations of this possibility she walked outside made her way to the edge of the beach. Having reached this boundary she sat down and stared out at the endless sapphire waters beyond. Thoughts about how she came to be here and what she was going to do to escape fell away and eventually her mind turned to home. Was she ever going to see it again? Was she going to be able to finish college and find a man that she could marry? Would she see her family again? Her gaze turned towards the ground.
She felt too sad to cry.
Jennifer had spent most of the day on the beach looking for any sign of rescue. When it began to grow dark and she felt a desire to eat something. She walked back to the building. A variety of fruits grew on the plants outside and she collected a little bit of each and ate them. They tasted delicious, sweeter than any fruit back home. After she was full she went inside and after removing the encompassing black garment that covered her entire body, save for her hands and face, she crawled under the covers of the bed and went to sleep.
When Jennifer awoke the next day she quickly dressed herself and went outside. She scanned the entire horizon but found no sign of any ship or plane. She spent several hours looking for any sign of rescue. Eventually she became wary and returned to the building where she ate some more of the delicious fruit and for lack of anything else to do she walked around the exterior of the building. The blue walls were covered with the white lines of writing. She wondered if the writing gave any clue as to where this place was or why she was here.
She returned to scanning the seas and sky and kept at it for the entire day. The lack of any ships or planes would have been disheartening but the situation was already so sad that it did not evoke any emotion out of Jennifer. Instead she returned to the building and after stripping off the black sheet she had been wearing she fell asleep for a second night.
The next several days took the same pattern. She would rise in the morning and began by looking for any sign of rescue. She would take breaks to eat or try to relieve her boredom. Unfortunately the lack of anything to do on the island meant there really was not any break from the boredom. She once spent what seemed like an hour just looking at her reflection in the water of the fountain. She found that the look of the black garment was actually nice in its own way. Jennifer usually spent so much time worrying what her hair looked like she never realized how pretty she would look with her dark brown ringlets covered.
Just then a strange idea came to her. She went inside the building to get the gloves and face veil. It was a little crazy, but she suddenly was curious to know what she would look like with it on. Besides, she had long ago ran out of things to keep herself occupied. Playing dress up with what few pieces of clothing she had was a perfectly reasonable activity under the circumstances.
After retrieving the clothes she returned to the fountain. She put the gloves on first which was a relatively simple task. Then she examined the face veil. It took her a couple of moments to realize how it worked especially since there was a a transparent piece of cloth that she realized was meant to be flipped over the eyes so that even that small piece of her would not be visible.
It took a few moments but she managed to get it into position. Looking at her reflection in the water she was shocked. Looking back at her was not herself, but someone who might as well have been a Muslim woman living in the Middle East. It was a strange and surreal sight but it was fascinating enough to at least temporary relieve her boredom. Out of curiosity she reached up and pulled the transparent material over her eyes. When she did this her vision instantly became dim as if the sky had become overcast. After her eyes adjusted she looked at herself in the water. Her reflection might as well have been of a black ghost.
It was then that something caught her eye. In the reflection of the building she could she English words. Or at least, she could see English writing. Quickly lifting back the veil as she turned in place she looked at the building. Disappointment sank in as she was greeted by the same script that had been on it during the previous days.
But she had seen it. At least, she thought she had. With the material over her eyes maybe she had…
A strange thought occurred to her. It was an impossible thought and made no sense. Still…she reached up and pulled the material over her eyes. Sure enough, once her eyes had adjusted she found that she was not looking at the squiggly script but at English words and letters. Flipping the material away from her eyes it changed back again. The implications of this were profound but for the moment Jennifer just wanted to be able to read the writing. Returning the material over her eyes the words were once again in English.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. O man. By the Quran, full of wisdom! Surely thou art one of the messengers. On a right way. A revelation of the Mighty, the Merciful.
As Jennifer walked around the entire building she found similar such things written along the entire wall. It was interesting to read and in its own way rather beautiful but it did not give her any helpful information. A thought then occurred to her and she went inside the building and approached the table with the book resting on the stand. Looking down at the cover she read the words.
“The Holy Quran.”
She knew that the Quran was the holy book of Muslims and this reinforced the idea that had gradually been building in her mind that she might be in the Middle East. She opened the book to a random page and again found that she could read it.
See how We have made some of them to excel others. And certainly the Hereafter is greater in degrees and greater in excellence.
Jennifer closed the book and turned back to the doorway outside. While a few of her questions had been answered, many more questions emerged. If she was in the Middle East why was she brought here? The idea that she had been kidnapped for some sort of white slavery ring or something came to mind, but if that was the case why was she dumped on this island all alone? She had not seen another soul for days.
Then her thoughts drifted to the change in the writing and the veil. How could the writing be in one language when she wasn’t wearing the veil, and in another when she was? There had to be a rational explanation for it.
She could not think of one.
Gradually over the next couple of days she began reading the Quran. By this point she was so bored she was grateful for something to do other than stare out at the unchanging ocean and sky.
At first she found it to be a difficult book to navigate. Each chapter seemed to switch from one topic to another. However, the lack of any other activity gave her an incentive to keep reading. Another reason that it was difficult at first was because she had to cover her eyes with the veil for the words to change into English. Reading through the gauzy black material was like reading in dim light but she eventually became accustomed to it.
The book was somewhat interesting. She had never really read anything about what Muslims believed. Now she was getting a first hand experience of their holy book. She would read several pages and then place the book back down and take a walk along the beach.
She would remove the the face veil and the gloves when not reading the book. It was not necessary to wear them unless she was trying to read the flowing script.
During her walks she would reflect on what she had read. So far she found the Quran interesting but she was not convinced that it was true. There were some beautiful things in it but Islam was used to oppress women across the globe. It was probably a Muslim who had kidnapped her and brought her to this place.
The days came and went. Eventually Jennifer had reached the end of the Quran. It had proved a useful distraction and it had even been illuminating by giving her an insight into another culture. Unfortunately it had not helped her in figuring out where she was or how to escape.
Breathing a sigh, she stepped outside for a walk.
This time however she left the black gauze over her eyes and the gloves on. She had gradually gotten use to them and found they did not bother her much. Even though she could never accept women being forced to wear these things, she had to admit that it was almost comforting to have them on. She had been wearing them for so long that she had found it unusual not to be wearing them.
She was pondered what she must look like, something akin to a black ghost taking a walk by the ocean. She was still thinking about this when something made her pause in her tracks. In front of her there were people! She felt her knees become weak and her body seemed to freeze in fear. After a couple moments of panic she realized that the two people before her had on the same attire she did.
She reached up and pulled back the black gauze from her eyes so that she could see better and…..
Nothing. There was nothing before her but empty beach. Had it been her imagination? She frowned for a few moments and then a notion entered her mind. She reached up again and brought back the gauze. The two black figures were before her again.
“Who are you?” her voice was a meek whisper.
“I am Abra and this is Mufeeda.“ The voice was feminine, soft and reassuring.
They had heard her and answered her question. She had so many more. What should she ask first?
“Where am I?”
“A place of waiting.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have waited here until you were ready to be visited.”
“Visited by you?”
“Why are you here?”
“We are here to help you learn.”
“Why am I here?”
“Come, follow us.”
The two black ghosts turned and began walking towards the water. Jennifer stayed where she was and simply watched. The two black shapes approached the water and then…..began walking on it. Jennifer could only watch in amazement. Then, fearing that she would end up alone again she rushed towards them.
She was expecting to began splashing into the waves but was shocked to discover she was walking on the water as well. The sensation was odd and unfamiliar but she managed. When she had caught up with the two figures, one on her left and the other on her right, she was eager to gain more information.
“Where are we going?”
“You will see when we get there.”
The rest of the journey was made in silence. During the entire time her heart raced. The experience was so strange she could not even began to try to rationalize it. Instead she spent every moment anxiously waiting for them to reach their destination.
Finally the shape of another island could be seen. It was similar in size to the first but the building in the middle was green in color. As it drew closer Jennifer’s stunned mind was no longer in any condition to question anything. Eventually they were on land again and they approached a structure similar to the one on the island she had just been at.
Soon the doors were in front of them.
“The answers you seek are in there.”
“What is in there?”
Silence. With a lot of hesitation she reached out and opened the doors.
It took her a moment to realize that she had woken up in a warm bed. A warm bed? Her eyes shot wide open. She was in a house. She was in her family’s house, in her old room.
A dream? She felt confused. It had seemed so real. It was real. But she was home now. How? Did it matter? She pulled back the covered of her bed and slid her lean and nude body out. The feel of the carpet was strange. She had become accustomed to sand under her feet. She stretched out.
Her eyes caught the sound of voices coming from downstairs. Her mother was home as was her little sister. Maybe they could help her solve the mystery of what had happen? Maybe she had been in an accident or something? Her memories seemed so real and yet so vague.
She walked over to her closet to get some clothes. What she found in there made her take a couple of steps back. Black. Her closet was a sea of black clothes. Black clothes just like the ones she had worn back on the island. The room did not spin but might as well have because she felt like reality was tearing apart.
The shock was still subsiding when she noticed something from the corner of her vision. Walking over to her desk and mirror she found that her pictures were different too. In all of them she was dressed in black. In intimate pictures of her and her friends only her face and hands were visible. In pictures taken outdoors or in public there was nothing visible of her. She was just a black ghost. Her friends were also dressed the same way.
Jennifer just sat down on her bed and stared blankly ahead. Her mind was not able to process this new shock.
“Juhanah, breakfast is ready.” The voice was her mother’s.
Juhanah? Who was Juhanah? The question was enough to get her mind working again. She realized she would get no answers just sitting on the bed. She stood up and walked over to the closet. First she quickly put on a black piece of underwear and bra. Next she put on long and thick black stockings that reach up to her knee. She awkwardly pulled out some black baggy trousers. After examining them for a moment she pulls them on. Next comes a black long sleeve shirt. She finds no shoes other than black slippers and so she pulls them on. She then puts on the long flowing black garment and soon only her face and hands are visible. There is a face veil and gloves there too but she leaves them. Instead she turns around and walks out of her room.
Every step she took made her heart beat faster. What would her mother and younger sister say when they saw her like this? Would they say anything?
She paused as she reached the stairs. There was a family portrait on the wall. There hadn’t been a family portrait on the wall since her parents got divorced several years ago. This portrait was different too, in a number of ways. First, there were too many people. Instead of her parents and her sister and herself they were now joined by what she assumed were four additional siblings. An older brother, two young brothers and a baby. Second, the women all wore black clothing with only hands and faces visible and the men wore white arab men’s clothing with a white headdress with black band and her father and presumed brother had long beards. Other pictures on the wall that were taken outdoors had black ghosts in place of women.
When she came down to the living room things looked more or less the same. However, when she entered the kitchen she was dumfounded by what she saw. An entire family was present at the table. Her father, wearing white robes and with a long beard where there had once been a clean shaven face, was reading the newspaper as he distractedly ate food off his plate. There was no sign of the older brother but two young boys also in white ate off their plates. Her younger sister was a familiar and welcome sight but she too was covered in black except for her face and hands. Disconcertingly a face veil and gloves rested on the table in front of her. In a separate child seat a small infant boy, Jennifer assumed this was an older version of the baby, ate his meal. Or rather he smeared it on his face and occasionally got it in his mouth. Coming over from the counter was her mother and the sight of her was in a way the most shocking of all. Instead of being greeted by the high powered attorney who was constantly on the phone, Jennifer saw another woman in encompassing black. She brought a pan of food over and scrapped it on everyone’s plate. When she put the pan away Jennifer saw a very large baby bump belly on her.
“Good morning sleepy head.” Her mother was cheerful. This was an unusual occurrence. “You breakfast is ready. Better eat it before it gets cold.” Jennifer slid into her seat and began eating. It was a strange meal with food she was not familiar with but that she expected was Middle Eastern in origin. Her mother sat down and began eating her own meal, obviously with an appetite for two.
During the meal Jennifer was silent. She simply listened to the table conversation that was taking place. It is familiar in some ways, but profoundly different in others. After the meal her sister and two new brothers went out to catch the bus to school.
“Juhanah, you had better go get your niqab and gloves if your father is going to take you to work.” Jennifer just looked down at her food for a moment before looking up.
“Were you talking to me?”
“No, I was talking to my other daughter named Juhanah. Of course I was talking to you silly.” Jennifer looked at her mother and then her father and slowly made the return trip to her room. She was going to ask why her father would be driving her to work rather than taking her own car but the whole situation was so surreal she simply went with the flow. When she returned to her room she picked up the gloves and the niqab, which is what she guessed the face veil was called. With shaking hands she put them on. She was hesitant to do so. It suddenly felt as though to do so would condemn her to an eternity of wearing these things.
When she returned downstairs her father was already waiting for her.
“Are you ready sweetheart?”
“Uh, yes dad.”
They left the house and emerged on what seemed to be a familiar street. They hopped into her dad’s minivan and were soon on their way. During the drive the radio station was set to some talk channel. It featured two Islamic scholars who this morning were discussing a very specific verse of the Quran. Jennifer (or was it Juhanah now?) looked over at her father who seemed to be intently listening to the conversation.
When they arrived at work her father told her to call him when she needed him to pick her up. She said she would and walked up to the entrance of the data entry center where she was working. The first thing she had noticed was that her boss who wore black but her face and hands were exposed. The other was that there were no men working here like before. Just black clad women. They all were free of the face veil and gloves so Jennifer followed their lead and removed her own.
She sat down at her computer station and began working on the data spread sheet. This was at least the same as before and she got into a good routine until a voice spoke a passage from the Quran from loudspeakers and all the women got up from their stations. Jennifer timidly followed them into what had once been a break room but was now a prayer room. The women lined up and and she quickly fell in. She watched the others from the corner of her eyes and tried to follow along as they bowed and kneeled. After the prayers were over they resumed their work. It was difficult to concentrate though as her thoughts constantly were preoccupied with her situation. All sorts of possibilities flooded her mind. That she was dead, or crazy or still dreaming.
Once work was over her father picked her up. When they returned home she was able to relax in her room for a while. Rather, she stretched out on her bed and tried to think about her situation. Things were so real and yet so unreal. It was all she could do to just follow along.
She thought about everything that had happened since she had woken up on the island. Had it been real? Was the island a dream? Was her life before a fantasy? She tried to put it all together but it felt like trying to put together two different puzzles. Some of the pieces just would not fit with each other.
Eventually she had to come down for dinner. Once again she was mostly quiet while her family engaged in a lively conversation. Partially Jennifer just listened so that she could learn about her new family. Her two younger brothers were Akram and Hakim. She was eventually able to infer that her absent older brother was named Munir and that he was at some sort of religious school training to be an Imam. Her new baby sister in the highchair was Lawahiz and she was not quite two yet. The only sibling that she remembered was her younger sister Barbara except here she was named Bara’ah.
Of course, she also just listened to the conversation going on around her because she just felt numb and could not think of anything to contribute. Instead she watched and observed. Probably the thing that stood out the most was the interaction between her mother and father. Before they had divorced their interactions had been few, brief and cold. Now they talked pleasantly but each other’s day and more than once Jennifer saw her father give her mother a loving look. Her mother’s demeanor seemed completely different. Before she was usually on the phone and she had long since gave up trying to cook for the family. Now, she had made an amazing spread of different dishes for dinner. She spent time talking with each of her children and never once was on the phone.
Jennifer also spent a lot of time studying her younger sister as she was the only other holdover from before. She too seemed to be very different. The last several times Jennifer had seen her sister she had seemed sad, maybe even depressed. She never really said much when talked to. Now she was smiling and more talkative than Jennifer could remember. Since her hands and face were the only things that were visible in the sea of black it helped Jennifer focus on Bara’ah’s face. There was a brightness in her eyes, one she had not see for so long…
After dinner the family gathered in the living room to pray. Her father and two brothers lined up and behind them her mother, sister and herself. Once again Jennifer did her best to follow along and no one mentioned anything about her doing it wrong. She noticed her mother did not perform all of the movements and she realized that with her large pregnant belly she was probably unable to bow.
After the prayers Jennifer returned to her room and resumed pondering her situation. Maybe the pleasant time spent at dinner had helped to ease her nerves. She found it easier to think rationally instead of just daydream. What did she know? Shortly after her last final at university she had awoken on a strange island. She had been stranded there for weeks…..actually months. All that had been available to pass the time was a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran. Then there was the veil. When she had put on the niqab and covered her eyes she could read the Arabic writing. When she took it off she became unable to. Later she had been visited by two women dressed as herself. They had led her across the ocean to another island almost identical to the one she had been on. Upon entering the building on that island she found herself in this strange place, like her life only radically different. The world if her family had been Muslims, if her whole life had been Islamic. Again the possibility of this being a dream, or that she was crazy crossed her mind. Only it did not feel like a dream. Everything was vivid and real. Was she in some sort of alternate universe? It sounded crazy but in her present circumstances she was not in a position to reject any possibility.
She began to look through the contents of her room. At the very least she could learn more about this strange new life she had been thrust into. She had already examined the contents of her closet. She proceeded to look through old photo albums. The contents were similar, but different. She saw familiar pictures of her family only with the new siblings added in. She found all the pictures of her friends except they to wore the black clothing and any pictures from outside had their faces and hands covered too.
One picture in particular captured her attention. It was from a field trip her class had made. The original picture had featured her class of girls and boys in front of an old Church that they had studied for their architecture class. This new image only featured girls, all of them completely covered in black of course, in front of a building with tall minarets and a large dome.
When she was done with the pictures she looked through her school mementos. Much of it was the same, but on her high school transcripts there were classes about the Quran and a class about the Prophet Muhammed. From reading the Quran on the island Jennifer knew that Muhammed was an extremely important messenger in the Muslim religion and that they believed he received revelations from Allah.
When she examined her bookcase she found a copy of the Quran there as well as several books about Islam. There were a couple of magazines and every woman in them was completely covered in black.
After exhausting everything in her room she checked her purse. She found a billfold with some money and an id card that did not include a picture. She also found a phone. When looking through it she did not see any names she recognized. She assumed the Arab names in it were her friend’s new names just as hers was now Juhanah. She thought about calling some of them but then decided she would wait until it was not so late at night.
Over the next several days she very slowly adjusted to this strange new life she found herself in. She became accustomed to the daily schedule and the meals with her substantially expanded family. She gradually got to know her new siblings and the altered personalities of her old family members.
Going outside in full niqab was strange at first but this too she eventually accepted. The first several days she was driven around by her father she often looked at herself in the rearview mirrors. All that she saw was black cloth in the vague shape of a person.
On Friday her entire family went to their local mosque. Jennifer followed her mother and sister into a separate entrance that led to a section of the mosque that was reserved solely for women. Once here they removed their gloves and niqabs though a few women still wore them. Having already gone through the motions of prayer with her family and coworkers several times she was able to replicate the process here in the mosque without drawing any bad attention.
These early days were often consumed with countless questions in her mind and extensive searching for clues. However, as much information about her new surroundings as she may uncover, none of it actually helped to answer her questions. As the days passed by she found herself exhausted for ideas on what to search for. Almost as an afterthought, she went over to her bookcase and pulled out a copy of the Quran. The book had been left for her on the island. By wearing the niqab she had been able to read it. There had to be some significance to that, hadn’t there? The implication that wearing the niqab had granted her an ability that was impossible in real life was always lingering in her mind. Did it mean that the Muslim religion was true? She had always believe in God but she had never followed a particular faith. While she had always respected the beliefs of other people, she had never found them convincing. Was she experiencing an example of some greater truth? Had the Muslim God brought her to this place to live another life? Why would he do so? More than once she had wondered whether she was dead and this was some weird form of heaven.
She opened the book to a random page and read the first thing that she saw.
Whoever acts righteously, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily we shall revive with a goodly life.
Jennifer stared at the passage for several moments. Each second felt like an eternity. In her mind one voice seemed to be screaming that it was just a coincidence. The other part of her mind, despite speaking in whispers was being more persuasive that there was something more to this. She took the book over to her bed and began to read it. She had already read it before on the island but she did not retain much. Here though, each verse seemed to have a special meaning that manifested itself as soon as she read it.
Juhanah sat on the edge of the bathtub and resolved that she was going to purify herself. She had been reading through the Quran for several days now and the truths that made themselves apparent had begun to deeply affect her. Whatever had happened to her, whatever was going to happen to her did not matter. All that mattered was she had to find out the truth.
The words escaped from her lips in a whisper. “In the name of Allah.” She began by washing her hands, her wrists and between fingers. She did this three times. Then she rinsed her mouth, she sniffed water into her nostrils. She then washed her face from forehead to chin. “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. Oh Allah, make me among those who turn in repentance to you and make me among those who purify themselves.”
She returned to her bedroom. The prayer rug, her prayer rug, was there waiting for her.
Standing there she felt herself tremble a little. She was presenting herself before God. She had gone to church her entire life. She had prayed when she had felt like she had needed to pray. This felt different. When praying here and now she would directly showing her submission to her creator, to The Creator. In the standing position she raised both her hands with her palms facing outward.
Allah is Greatest.
The truth flooded into her. Surely God was greatest. What being could be greater than the one who created the universe? The one who had created her?
She placed her hands on chest, her right hand on her left.
I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the accursed.
During her life she had faced many challenges and many situations that surely were the work of Satan. The parties at school where alcohol was consumed to excess. The men who were interested in her only for sex. Surely her protection was God.
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. Master of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship and in You alone we seek help. Guide us to the straight path. The way of those whom You have favored Not the way of those who have earned Your anger. Nor of those who have gone astray Oh Allah answer out prayer!
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful He is Allah, The One Allah, the eternal Refuge He neither begets, nor is He born Nor is there to Him any equivalent
There was someone always protecting her. God had watched over her for her entire life. God had guided her and was her refuge.
Still standing she raised both her hands.
Allah is Greatest
Jennifer leaned forward in a bow.
Glory be to my Lord the Supreme
Glory be to my Lord the Supreme
Glory be to my Lord the Supreme
She came up from bowing to a standing position, as she came up she said: “Allah listens to the one who praises him”
“Our Lord, and to You belongs the praise”
She then came down into a position of prostration, her nose and forehead touching the ground. palms on the floor as she goes into this position she says “Allah is Greatest”
“Glory be to my Lord Most High”
“Glory be to my Lord Most High”
“Glory be to my Lord Most High”
She came up into a sitting position and as she came up she said “Allah is Greatest”
“Oh Allah, forgive me “
“Oh Allah, forgive me “
“Oh Allah, forgive me “
She goes into prostration for a second time, saying “Allah is Greatest”
“Glory be to my Lord Most High”
“Glory be to my Lord Most High”
“Glory be to my Lord Most High”
When it was over she remained still. Her mind was weighed by deep thoughts. She had gone through the motions of this ritual many times by now. She had only done it to blend in though. The words and movements had been meaningless to her. They were not meaningless this time though. She had felt something. When performing it this time she had felt close to Allah, closer than she had ever felt.
The weeks began to pass. One after another her daily routine would continue on as it had before. Only now, in her free time she was intently studying the Quran. Every verse brought enhanced enlightenment. She began to feel less like she was adrift in a strange place and more like she was secluded in study. Her experiences in this life underlying what she learned from the Quran.
She could not deny that she saw the truths manifested everywhere. Whenever she was out of the house she noticed how deferential men were to her. They did not look at her with lustful eyes but rather did their best to be respectful. It was certainly the effect of her niqab. When a man looked at her he did not see something to lust after. Instead, there was a black figure who had to be treated as a person. Of course she tried to keep her interactions with men to a minimum in order to avoid temptation.
At home things were clearly better than in her old life. Her father was very attentive to her mother and cared for her every need. Juhanah realized just how beautiful their love was when she saw him come up behind her and wrap his arms around her. He nuzzled his nose into her neck and lovingly held her enlarged belly with his hands. A few days later her mother gave birth and the family was joined by a new daughter: Furrat.
Her older brother Munir came home for the new birth. Upon meeting him Juhanah knew she liked him. He was sweet and caring and doted on his new infant sister. He had a passion for Islam and often shared the things he had learned in the process of becoming an Imam. One night a fellow student of his came over for dinner. Juhanah, Bara’ah and their mother wore the niqab during this visit. Juhanah had become accustomed to eating with the niqab on while she was out of the house so it fortunately did not prove too much of an inconvenience. Even if it had, she would not have minded so much.
Munir’s friend Ibrahim was very handsome. Even through the black gauze of her niqab she could see his facial features. He had dark eyes and brown hair. Like her older brother her wore a prayer cap and grew a long beard as a sign of his devotion. Juhanah respectively kept silent during the meal so as to not cause him distress by tempting him with her beautiful female voice.
After Ibrahim had left Juhanah’s father let her know that he had asked for permission to write her while he was studying to become an Imam. Apparently her father had told Ibrahim about her devout she was, always in her room studying the Quran, and he had expressed an interest in getting to know her better.
Time seemed to pass more quickly and now months came and went. Juhanah’s anxiety about her situation lessened each day. When summer was over she had returned to school. She took her classes along with many other women in all encompassing black niqabs. During this time she kept up a steady correspondence with Ibrahim through letters relayed by her father. They slowly got to know one another and discovered that they had many similar interests and most important of all their love for Allah and Islam.
Once Juhanah had finished college her father informed her that Ibrahim had asked for her hand in marriage and asked if she accepted. She let him know that she most heartily accepted and before they knew it there was a wedding and a reception and a honeymoon.
Resting on the bed of the hotel where they were spending their honeymoon Juhanah waited with impatience that was slowly getting worse. She yearned to make love with her husband, to join their two souls together, for him to finally see her face. In her previous life she had had sex before. But this time was going to be different. In this world she had discovered she was still a virgin.
There was a tapping on the door followed by Ibrahim entering. Juhanah stood up and waited for him to approach. Slowly, almost timidly he did and after several small footsteps he was standing before her. With hands that were trembling badly he reached up and took off her niqab. Upon seeing her face he smiled.
“You are so beautiful.” Juhanah then smiled herself.
Again he raised a trembling hand and lightly traced it along her cheek. He then leaned in and they kissed. As their lips pressed against each other it was almost as if electricity was passing between them. It was more erotic than anything she had ever experienced before. She knew this was because they were acting in accordance with Allah’s will.
Soon his hands, not trembling so badly this time, took off her hijab and her curly brown hair came free. Another kiss and his hands were now exploring the curves of her body. Before long they were under the sheets and after sharing each other were snuggled up.
Juhanah reflected on the boys she had been with in that strange, distant other world. None of those relationships had lasted. They had only been interested in her body. Ibrahim had been interested in her soul. She nuzzled in close to him, enjoying the feel of his arms wrapped protectively around her.
The years passed. Ibrahim became a very respected Imam and his work was widely circulated. The love he and Juhanah shared grew with each year they were married. Before long she was heavy with their first child.
As their family expanded and more blessings from Allah entered their lives the previous life she had lived and the strange island she had woke up on faded. She had been brought to this place of supreme happiness and it was all that mattered.
Eventually her sister Bara’ah graduated from college and a marriage was arranged for her and Ibrahim’s younger brother. Life just seemed perfect.
Juhanah awoke on a floor. She sat up and looked around her surroundings and her heart began to race. It was the inside of the green building she had entered. It looked just like the blue building except for the color of the tile.
She had almost forgotten about these islands. Now they had returned like a heavy hammer blow.
“No. This cannot be.”
Without taking the time to worry or plan or think she did what came naturally. She began praying. Afterwards she turned and was greeted by the sight of two black ghosts. One moment they had not been there and then a quick turn of the head and then there they were.
It was them, the two that had led her from one island to another, They had guided her to her new life, and now they seem to have taken her away from it.
“What do you want?”
“We have come to take you back.”
“Back…to the island?”
“No. Back to your life.”
“This isn’t my life? I have lived for years here. ”
“No. That was a vision. This is where visions occur. It was meant to help you understand.”
“Understand the things you now know.”
Juhanah was silent for a moment as she searched for the answers for herself. She felt heartbroken. Her happily married life had been an illusion.
“Will I remember this?”
“In a way, yes.”
“So that you can help others”
It took Jennifer a long time to realize that she was awake. Her eyes had been closed for so long that opening them just did not occur to her. When she did open them the light seemed so bright she was not able to see anything at all. Slowly the harshness of the light faded and she was able to take in her surroundings. Everything was white and sterile and before long she realized she was in a hospital room.
She looked around in confusion. She did not remember being injured. Her brow narrowed in concentration as she tried to organize her memories. She remember returning from the mosque with her husband and children. She had put them to bed and was going to join her husband in their bedroom when…
Suddenly the memories came crashing down like falling stones. The two women in niqab. The formless, faceless women. They had returned. After all those year they had returned. The island and everything about it had been both real and a dream. Just as she had fully adjusted to her new life as a devout Muslimah. Her old life had begun to fade and with each passing day she had become convinced that it had been that life that was false. But those two women had returned and upended her life yet again. Everything about her new life had not been real.
Jennifer felt her heart sink. Her life…her husband…her children. It had all been an illusion. The blow was too much for her to cry. She found herself unable to bring forth tears. She just stared ahead at the blank wall in front of her. The sadness spread to her body and became the only thing she could think about. Thoughts of why she was in the hospital and where her family (what there was of her family) was in this reality could get no leverage at the moment.
After sometime a nurse found her awake and immediately brought in her mother and sister. It was strange to see them without niqab and even stranger not to see hijab on them. They both hugged her tightly and she returned the hug and it was sincere and yet empty.
“What happened?” She asked the question more out of an obligation than an eagerness to know.
“You had heart trouble dear. Somehow you managed to call an ambulance before losing consciousness. You have been here for four days.”
Four days. It had been well over a decade in her other life. She had been lost on an island, lived the life of a Muslimah. All of it in just four days. After visiting for a while her mother had to leave to fill complete some paperwork with the hospital. This left her alone with her sister. The difference in her was so profound. When she had last seen her she was ten years older and a married woman with children. When she had last seen her she had been happy. The young girl before her did not seem happy now.
She was smiling of course. How could she not be when her only sister was alive. But Jennifer saw something in her kid sister’s eyes. A sadness. Maybe it was Allah compelling her to act. Maybe it was just desperation not to lose the last pieces of the life she did not have anymore. All Jennifer knew was she had to reach out to her sister, she had to bring her peace.
“Bara’ah…..I mean Barbara. Listen, I have to talk to you about something.”
“I know that life is not going well for you right now.”
“What? No everything is f-”
“Listen to me Barbara! Listen to me please.”
Her sister opened her mouth, then closed it. The look in her eyes said she was ready to hear what Jennifer had to say.
“I need to tell you about Allah.”
“What is Allah?”
“Allah is what created you and created me. He has a plan for all of us and if we follow his plan we’ll know happiness in this life…and the next. While I was gone I woke up on an island…..”